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NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
June 17, 2015
THE MODERATOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to today's NASCAR teleconference. First we're going to be joined by Ross Kenseth, driver of the No.20 Dollar General Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, and Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 2o Dollar General Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Ross will make his national series debut this weekend Saturday at Chicagoland Speedway.
Ross, we'll start with you. I'm sure you've been looking forward to this weekend for some time. What does it mean to be able to make your NASCAR XFINITY Series debut on Father's Day weekend?
ROSS KENSETH: It's really cool. You know, it's one of those weekends that the Sprint Cup Series is off. Having my dad there that weekend will be a big help for me. I've been looking forward to getting to this weekend now ever since we announced it at Bristol.
The closer it gets, the more real it feels and the more excited I get to go there this weekend.
THE MODERATOR: Matt, for you, this weekend will be a little different as you will not be behind the driver's seat. How exciting will it be for you to see Ross make his debut, or shall we say nerve‑wracking as well?
MATT KENSETH: It would be hard to sit behind the driver's seat. That was a joke (laughter).
I'm looking forward to going up there. Like I said, Ross has been working hard trying to get this opportunity for a long time. Particularly last year it was great to get that ARCA race in last week in the Federated car.
To be able to pick up that win was really good. I'm sure it was a confidence booster for Ross. It was fun for me to be there and be part of that and listen to his feedback, watch him interact with the team, and, of course, the most important part get the win. Anyway, I'm looking forward to this.
Rick, everybody at Dollar General has been a huge supporter of mine, they've been a huge supporter of Joe Gibbs Racing. Man, I can't say enough about them guys picking up this race for Ross to be able to get his first‑ever NASCAR start, first XFINITY start, and to be driving the Dollar General car, it's pretty cool.
It's going to be neat to see him in that car. It will be weird to see somebody in there because I feel it's my car. I know Ross can do a good job and can't wait to be part of that.
THE MODERATOR: We'll now go to the media for questions.
Q. Matt, how hands‑on will you be with giving advice to Ross throughout the weekend? Ross, the past weekend, what was the best tip your dad gave you on how to best get around Michigan?
MATT KENSETH: You know, for me, as a dad, I think you go through a little bit of a learning process. I felt like when Ross started driving late‑model cars, I'd go to the track with him a couple times, we tested together. It took me a few weeks to learn to actually close my mouth a little bit.
I probably gave him too much advice in the beginning. There's certain things I think you have to learn on your own until you go make a mistake or see something. Oh, now I see it. It's hard to learn that sometimes just by talking.
But on the other hand, I've always given Ross as much advice or as little advice as he wanted. I'm always there to answer any questions he has and help him, as much help as he wants.
He's been studying really hard. He's been doing a lot of things to get ready for this race. Like I said, Michigan I think was good. We've been talking a lot about the racetrack, the cars, the tendencies, all that kind of stuff. Spent a lot of time together here, especially lately, talking about this race, trying to get ready for it.
ROSS KENSETH: Yeah, I think last week at Michigan from first practice, you know, there's a few things there, had success at Michigan with different lines there that you can work around, if your car's doing something, you can kind of move around, try to get the balance closer to where you need it. If you don't, you have a chance to come in and work on the car.
I felt during the race he was quiet. There was a lot of things beforehand that he told me about the way those cars are aero‑wise, how hard it is back in traffic to get around guys, position yourself not to get yourself into a tight spot which I think helped me out quite a bit.
Even after the race when we watched the race together, there were a few things I felt like I could have done better, we were able to point out, kind of talk about a little bit.
I felt like it was a big advantage for me, a big help having that to be able to get up to speed that much quicker, having more confidence going into that race and being able to pass guys.
Q. Matt, what would you see as kind of what you would like Ross to be doing next year? Would it be better to have him in a full‑time Truck ride, part‑time XFINITY guy?
MATT KENSETH: Well, I mean, in a way that's a tough question to answer. In another way it's an easy question to answer. You'd like to see him running in the best equipment he can be in, be in a full‑time ride.
I mean, if you had your choice, you could make anything happen, I think you'd put him in a full‑time XFINITY ride at Joe Gibbs Racing. But those rides are hard to get.
Like I said, this weekend is a great opportunity. This is the only XFINITY start on his schedule right now. I think the goal is right now to go have a successful weekend at Chicago, hopefully that will lead to more opportunities.
Q. On Dale Jr., he's often asked his views on NASCAR issues. I look at the selection to the Driver's Council. Drivers have a great deal of respect for his views. How much is he respected in the garage as far as his views on the sport?
MATT KENSETH: Yeah, I mean, I think Dale Jr. has a lot of respect. I think he's earned that respect for several different reasons.
Another thing about Dale Jr. is, I think when you look at the Driver Council, you try to figure out who you want to vote for, who you don't want to vote for, it's not a popularity contest. From my perspective it's somebody that is going to be 100% engaged and want to do it. There's a lot of drivers that have a ton of respect and ton of knowledge, all that stuff, but if they don't want anything to do with sitting down at meetings, giving their true opinion what they think is best overall for the sport, not themselves, somebody you don't want on there.
As we all know, Dale Jr., he loves watching old races. He loves the sport. He loves the history of the sport. He loves where it came from. I think he really cares about where it's going and where it's going to be in the future.
That's exactly the kind of guy you want to be on that council to give his opinion, what he thinks is right, what he thinks is wrong, what he enjoys, what he doesn't enjoy, that type of thing.
Q. Ross, so many sons have followed their fathers into racing. I'm curious if there was ever any doubt that you would follow your dad into racing? Did you have any other interests growing up? How old are you now?
ROSS KENSETH: I'm 22.
I think growing up, I started racing when I was really young, I was five. Started running go‑karts, snowmobiles. From then I absolutely loved the sport. From watching races as a kid, watching my dad race in the Busch Series, up to Sprint Cup. Racing different types of kind of cars growing up, from go‑karts, legends cars, late models, getting some ARCA starts, something that I feel like I've put a lot of work into, something I really love doing, really enjoy doing, feel like I'm not terrible at it.
I have a lot of fun with it. If it was up to me, I'd race two to three times a week if I could. I have a lot of fun with it. I'm looking forward to this opportunity and just hope I can make the most of it.
Q. Matt, I'm sure you've probably been aware of the new rules package for Kentucky. Your thoughts on that, and if it was a necessary rules change?
MATT KENSETH: It's hard to say what the perks are now. We haven't raced it. I think it's a good time to try something. I think the racing is really good right now. But it is hard to pass. It's probably as hard to pass or harder to pass than what it's ever been, which as the competition gets better, as there's more alliances, more big teams, the cars are closer to the same speed, it's going to be harder to pass. I think we all understand that.
I think the hope is if we rely a little bit less on the aerodynamics, hopefully the trailing car won't have as big a disadvantage as he has right now. You got to be a lot faster than somebody right now at these big tracks to be able to pass them. You get four, five car lengths from them, you get in their wake, you get in their dirty air, it's so hard to close the rest of the gap and actually get around someone.
I think the hope is that this will make that a little bit better. If you are faster than somebody, hopefully you don't have to be that much faster as the guy in front of you to be able to catch them and be able to make that pass.
Q. What is the best thing that you learned from each other as race drivers? Matt, it's probably hard to see that your son Ross is growing up so much, driving the same car as you almost.
MATT KENSETH: I mean, for me, I've been racing for a really long time. It's true that you're never too old to learn. So, I mean, there is things that I learn. There's things that surprise me. You know, a couple things.
I remember one of the first times we were at a track together, I was watching Ross drive. One of my best friends I grew up with was taking care of his cars at the time, Joe. We were standing there watching him. I was like, Man, that thing drives like this, it's doing this, doing that. He should do this, he should do that.
He came back in and I went and drove it. I came back in and said, Never mind. Everything he's telling you is exactly right. Just forget it. I put my street clothes back on and didn't drive anymore.
He really does know what he's talking about. He was 15, 16 at the time. I remember that because I was thinking I was going to get in there and go a lot faster, he was telling them the wrong thing. He was spot on. That was the first thing I learned.
Last weekend, too, listening to his feedback in the ARCA car, there was a lot of things I was thinking of to go help him with, try to tell him. I was listening to him, what the car was doing, how it was. Only having a few laps on a track that big and that fast. I was pretty impressed by that. I realized he wasn't going to need a lot of guidance from me last weekend.
ROSS KENSETH: I think it's hard to pick out just one thing. I feel like he's helped me a lot at certain racetracks that I haven't been to and he's done quite a bit, which is always good.
But there's a lot of things from the way he interacts with his team, from moving to different teams. I think even when they struggled a little bit, how involved he was, how close they get with the guys, I feel like over the years he's had a lot of support from his teams, a lot of people believe in him.
I feel like he's one of the more than underrated drivers. You can go to the races and they won't say a whole lot about him, but at the end of the day he'll end up in the top five after running in the middle of the pack some days.
One of the main things is being patient, especially with these longer races, if you get behind early, you have plenty of time. Make sure you keep your nose clean. It's hard to get a good finish when you get something thrown up.
Q. Ross, we saw a couple of the XFINITY racers enter the ARCA race at Chicagoland, you chose to switch Chicagoland for another race, why? Matt, will you be in the spotter stand for the race on Saturday night?
MATT KENSETH: I probably will not be. I'll probably be on the pit box. Unless I'm mistaken and they change it, I think only the spotters are allowed on the spotter's stand. I don't think you can have owners, dads and fans up there anymore. I'll probably stay in the pit box.
I haven't been in the pit box very many times. Denny has been out there a few times when he's been hurt. Ross was up there last weekend during Michigan for a while.
I kind of want to go up there and see kind of how Wheels and those guys go about it. I'll probably pay attention from there. Of course, can't see a lot of the track, so probably watch it on the DVR probably afterwards.
I'll probably be on the pit box and see what I can learn up there.
ROSS KENSETH: We were scheduled to do the ARCA race at Chicago. My understanding is I didn't realize it was on the same day. I think collectively we all agreed it would be best to focus on the XFINITY race. Put all our eggs in one basket there would probably be smart. Get as much time with Wheels and the guys to make sure I'm comfortable with them, try to get the car ready, try to get the best run possible, come out of there with a strong finish.
I feel like Michigan last weekend, I learned a lot there and I felt like it prepared me a lot for next weekend. I felt there were a lot of times during that race had to use the air and I could feel it, I had to work around that. We were able to get through most of that.
I feel a lot better about going into next weekend. I felt more prepared than I did a week ago. I think that's a good thing.
Q. Matt, from a dad's perspective, what is a good finish for Ross this weekend? Ross, what do you consider an accomplishment on your first start?
MATT KENSETH: Well, I mean, the way I look at the weekend, it's not all about the finish. I mean, you want to get a good finish. Of course, everybody goes to the racetrack wanting to win. If you can't win, you want to win second, so on and so forth.
You want to run the best you can, you want to finish the best you can. I think this weekend for me watching from the outside, I think a successful weekend is running competitively, being fast, having good feedback, not making a mistake to take you out of the race. I think all of those kinds of things are as important or more important necessarily as the finish.
There's certain things you only learn by doing them. I thought Michigan was a good example of that when Ross got back in the dirty air, got the car off sideways, just about wrecked it but didn't. I was as impressed or more impressed with the save than the win, to be honest.
I think things like that are invaluable. I think those are learning experiences. I think there's no way anybody can explain what it's like or how different it is until you actually experience that.
I think a successful weekend is to go there and have good communication, have good feedback on the car, work good with your crew, hopefully have some speed, not make mistakes, those types of things. Hopefully if everything works out, there's no problems, you end up with a great finish on top of it.
ROSS KENSETH: That's mostly what I was going to say.
Yeah, that's kind of what I was thinking. Going there, just being able to get up to speed in practice right away, just being able to tell the guys what we need, make sure we have some speed in the car.
I think if we can be there all weekend, be competitive, race with them guys, be in the ballpark, you know, just be up to speed and be real competitive I think is what I was looking for going in.
Hopefully if I can do my part and give good feedback to the guys, get the car better, we can be competitive, hopefully we can come out of there with a solid finish, whatever that may be.
Q. Is there any more racing that you guys have talked about doing down the line this year for Joe Gibbs Racing, whether in the XFINITY Series or the Truck start for Kyle Busch's team, anything along those lines?
MATT KENSETH: I think we talked about trying to get some races for Ross for years. I mean, it's not something that we say, Hey, man, we would like to do Chicago, got it together. It's not quite that easy these days.
We've worked on that for a long time. Ross has been working on it for a long time. He's been putting in the effort. He's been getting some results.
You know, I'm real thankful for this opportunity for Dollar General stepping up to give him his first start and his first opportunity.
You know, like I said, I hope it leads into more opportunities down the road. I hope it finds some sponsorship and some opportunities to get in some more cars and run some more races.
But for right now, this is the only one on the schedule.
THE MODERATOR: Matt and Ross, thank you both for joining us today. Ross, we wish you the best of luck this weekend in Chicago.
ROSS KENSETH: Thank you very much.
MATT KENSETH: Thanks.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports